He really should have had a bi-directional general exclusivity clause in his contract with Sears. Ultimately, he should never have gone exclusive with just one company. The reality of his situation is that even if he had a patent, he likely would not have had a case since they followed a 60 year old patent (that obviously superceeded his) by a simple little difference. On top of that, he could not have gotten a patent that was general enough to cover their nockoff because the earlier patent was in place first.
However, unlike some comments here, it's not as simple as should we have patents or not.
The argument, like so many others, boils down to the existence of corporations and the practice of fractional banking. These two practices enable mega-conglomerates to grow large enough to outplay the small inventors, artists, song-writers, actors, software coders and other creative people. Until that scale imbalance is evened out by the elimination of the corporation and the banking games, we absolutely need patents to enforce a safe startup period of propriety for these creative outlets.
Without patents, all these endeavors will dry up immediately in today's environment. The guy with a game changing idea that takes $100M+ to develop will never raise that money. The song-writer would never be able to earn a living selling all his effort for nothing more than just the first 99 cents. Every morsel of creativity that entered the market place would instantly be bootlegged globally, thus guaranteeing the majority of profits would go directly to those best able to buy influence and speed to market.
If you really want to eliminate patents, help return markets to being local and accountable so people can compete with 'their peers'. There's simply no other way for a startup to compete with monetary influence on a global scale.
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